Today, the second day of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in Hobart, just a few days after his beatification as the greatest Australian One Day Cricketer, Adam Gilchrist became the first Test cricketer to hit one hundred sixes in Tests. I’ve had my eye on this milestone for a while (thanks to Cricinfo’s Live stats) and today it was reached in grand style. Gillie hit three big ones and the third, immediately following the second, was last seen heading over a stand of fir trees on the perimeter of lovely Bellerive. While that was a fitting way to bring up the ton, it’s cost Gillie ten grand because he wanted to auction his ball on eBay (all proceeds to OxFam, of course).
Gilchrist is a well know bigger hitter. But is he the biggest of the big hitters? The answer is…. It depends. When you look at the “Tonk Factor” (TF) expressed in the table below (sorry for those of you whose email client doesn’t support HTML), you can see that Gillie’s TF is 11.1. That is, 11.1% of Gilchrist’s runs are scored in sixes. That’s not bad – not bad at all. However, there are some who are better – but not many. Murali for a start! I’ve thrown in a few bowlers with big hitting reputations. Of course, they don’t have the responsibility of batsmen. But even most of those, while having good TFs, don’t surpass Gillie.
Chris Cairns, second on the list of six hitters (with 87), has a TF of 15.7 – now that’s getting near the top of the list. Afridi, no surprises for guessing, beats that comfortably with 18.8. But the winner is (as far as I can tell – I compiled these figures myself): Lance Cairns. His legend as being a big hitter is backed by stats. However, with just 28 sixes and less 1,000 Test runs, he claims to being the biggest hitter of all time are slender.
You will notice that on the whole, as the average goes up, the TF comes down (see graph below). Generally, the higher the average, the lower the TF. Bradman hit only 6 sixes in his whole Test career. That’s a TF of just 0.5% but I’m sure that The Don would not have cared. He once sent a message to Neil Harvey, “If you don’t hit the ball in the air, you can’t get caught.”. The text book run machines, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting have TFs of sub 4%. Interestingly, Chappelli, who I think sees himself as a bit of a hitter (“I always favoured the horizontal bat shots, while my brother Greg played in the “V”.), has a TF of just 1.7%. Rod Marsh, who was definitely seen as a man who could clear the fence has a humble TF of 4%.
When you look at Gillie’s high average, combined with his high TF, and his strike rate of over 82 runs per 100 balls (most good Australian Test batsmen are between 50 and 60), perhaps, all things considered, he is the best big hitter ever.
Player Sixes Boundaries Runs % boundaries %runs (Tonk Factor) Average
Gilchrist 100 759 5420 13.2 11.1 49.3
Hayden 79 1026 7799 7.7 6.1 52.7
Symonds 15 76 982 19.7 9.2 32.7
Afridi 50 266 1683 18.8 17.8 37.4
Cairns, C 87 452 3320 19.2 15.7 33.5
Jayasuria 58 950 6837 6.1 5.1 40.2
Bradman 6 n/a 6996 n/a 0.5 99.9
Cairns, L 28 n/a 928 n/a 18.1 16.3
Ponting 57 1125 9455 5.1 3.6 59.1
Chappell, G 16 771 7110 2.1 1.4 53.9
Chappell, I 15 n/a 5345 n/a 1.7 42.4
Marsh, R 24 405 3633 5.9 4.0 26.5
Hughes, M 17 113 1032 15.0 9.9 16.6
Muralidaran 24 154 1127 15.6 12.8 11.7
Lee 15 132 1098 11.4 8.2 21.1